KOKOMO, Ind. — When Grant Gaylor enrolled at Indiana University Kokomo, he thought his days throwing shot put were likely behind him.
The campus’s track team was new, and only included running events at that time.
Not ready to give up throwing and hoping it might be added before he graduated with his nursing degree, Gaylor continued to train on his own, with help from his Northwestern High School coach and some video instruction programs. When he was asked to be on the first throwing team last spring, he was ready.
Friday, he secured his place in campus history, winning shot put at the NAIA men’s outdoor track and field national championships.
“My story is unique, but almost anyone could do this,” he said. “It just takes the right motivation and drive. People can be a lot more than what they think. It just comes down to you. An outcome isn’t promised, but are you willing to do the work to get the outcome you want? I was willing to do the work and hope it would be meaningful and impactful.”
The Kokomo resident hopes his story inspires others to keep working towards their goals.
“It’s a great opportunity to say I was the first national champion at IU Kokomo,” he said. “While that’s a cool experience, I hope my legacy is more of someone who wasn’t predicted to win a national championship. I was the underdog nobody expected to win, and I worked hard to get there. It’s a great feeling. It validates all of my hard work and effort over the last few years, throwing on my own.”
Gaylor, who described himself as an average thrower when he competed in high school, dominated the field at nationals. His throw of 18.74 meters in the finals was 72 centimeters better than the next competitor and beat his previous school record of 18.02 meters.
“All of my good throws, it feels like you’re pushing against air, like it’s weightless,” he said. “I knew when the shot left my hand it was going to be a good one.”
Gaylor made the most of his one season on the team, not only with his national championship, but also winning River States Conference (RSC) titles in shot put and discus, and a runner-up finish at the NAIA indoor nationals.
“I just like the sport of throwing,” he said. “I knew I didn’t want to play college football. In football, other people’s performance affects you. Throwing was something I could do myself, without the support of a team. It’s you, the circle, and the shot put. It’s your throw, it’s your competition.”
He’s balanced a full training schedule with his senior nursing program, throwing and then lifting weights after class each weekday, and then competing in meets on Saturdays.
“It’s been challenging, but it was rewarding at the same time,” he said. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be able to compete and represent my university and be part of the team atmosphere again. It’s an important individual thing for me, but also to be part of something greater than myself.”
He wasn’t sure what to expect at his first indoor meet, but won shot put and qualified for indoor nationals with a throw of 16.65 meters, which placed him sixth in the NAIA.
He went on to win the conference indoor title in shot put and was also named an RSC Champion of Character. During the outdoor track and field season, he won conference titles in both shot put and discus, and narrowly missed qualifying for nationals in discus. He was also named the conference Outstanding Field Athlete of the Year.
Gaylor graduated in May with his nursing degree, and now, with competition over, looks forward to beginning his career as an emergency room nurse at Community Howard Regional Health. He also hopes to continue to impact IU Kokomo’s track program.
“I hope to come back and volunteer coach whenever I can throughout the season,” he said. “I will be busy, but I will make the time.”